Fishing Report: March 23, 2012

COASTWIDE - The weather is starting to improve, and ocean fishing conditions could be decent for morning runs Monday. That would mean plenty of fishing for bottomfish, lingcod and surfperch along the coast. Late March is a great time to hit the ocean, when conditions present themselves, because a lot of good species congregate near shore for spawning.

For clammers, no minus tides are forecast for the next two weeks, but there are some good morning low tides that should work well on most clam beds. Bay clamming will be best and safest because of the wave surges from the churning seas.

Ocean crabbing is a bust for the foreseeable future because of dangerous conditions. Bay crabbing was poor this week due to heavy rain and massive inflows from coastal streams.

The marine aggregate limit in Oregon is seven rockfish a day. New for 2012 is a rule that bans cabezon harvest until April to provide a chance to stretch out the cabezon quota.

Lingcod fishing has been very good when anglers can get out. Look for lingcod to be around kelp beds and near jetties when the ocean subsides enough for jigging. Black, white and red jigs are good March producers. The lingcod limit is two a day with a 22-inch minimum, and that is separate from the marine aggregate.

BROOKINGS - Bar conditions are extremely poor, but look for conditions to improve as early as Monday, when surf levels should be decent. The ocean started to lay down a little Thursday after a week of heavy surf. Flows from the Chetco River into the estuary are extremely high, which is pushing crabs far past the river mouth.

Surfperch fishing has been good around Winchuck Beach when the surf is down. Normally the second day after a lower surf provides better catches. Clam necks or prawns are working well.

COOS BAY - Chinook salmon fishing opened last week with no action thanks to rough surf conditions. Expect to see some recreational boaters go looking for schools of chinook next week, when forecasts call for better bar conditions. When the ocean settles down, anglers can prospect for chinook in waters about 150 feet deep, varying depths with slowly trolled herring or anchovies with hoochies. Rockfish catches have been fair and lingcod catches have been good when anglers have been able to get out.

Crabbing will be slow off the public docks in the bay due to the heavy surge of freshwater from all of the storms. The low salinity levels will force crabs deeper into the bay and then back to the ocean.

WINCHESTER BAY - Sturgeon fishing has been slow below the Highway 101 bridge. Crabbing will remain poor for a while because of heavy inflows.

AGATE - A fresh batch of legal-sized trout were stocked less than a month ago and they have spread throughout the bottom half of the reservoir. Heavy inflows this past week raised the reservoir to 94 percent of full, and that has kept the trout off the bite. Try worms or PowerBait off the bottom near the dam or wind-drift worms around the shallows in 8 to 16 feet of water. When you get a trout bite, hit that stretch for a while.

No gas motors are allowed. Small electric motors are legal.

APPLEGATE - This week's projected in-flows could put a clamp on trolling or wind-drifting for rainbow trout, which don't react well to heavy fluctuations in water levels there. Flows into the reservoir jumped above 1,000 cubic feet per second and the out-flows have been bumped slightly to 120 cfs as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to fill the reservoir. The lake has risen dramatically in the past week and now sits at just over 41 feet from full. Fishing pressure is very light. The facilities at Hart-Tish Park are closed and the low-water ramp at French Gulch is open and usable, as is the Copper ramp. For winter trout fishing, troll Triple Teasers or Wedding Ring lures with worms. Bass fishing is slow.

EMIGRANT - The lake received 3,500 legal-sized rainbow trout this week, and fishing for them will remain somewhat slow due to heavy inflows. Most of the rainbows will be hanging around the county park boat ramp for a while, and you can catch them on PowerBait, worms and small lures. Expect turbid water throughout the reservoir, with cleaner but colder water on the upper end. No new trout are planned for next week.

A standing public-health advisory continues about eating all but trout from the lake because of elevated mercury levels.

HYATT - The lake is closed for the season.

DIAMOND - The lake is closed for the season.

LEMOLO - The lake is closed for the season.

EXPO - Fishing has held on after the pond was stocked two weeks ago with legal-sized rainbow trout. The pond is accessible at Gate 5 for the Jackson County Expo Park off Peninger Road. Fish Panther Martin lures and other small lures. Worms a few feet under a bobber work well for getting kids into the rainbows.

LOST CREEK - The lake received its first 25,000 legal-sized rainbow trout Tuesday, and they were split between the boat ramps at Stewart State Park and Takelma. Fishing for them won't be red-hot yet, largely because heavy inflows into the reservoir have kept trout off the bite. In-flows Thursday were almost 5,000 cubic feet per second and out-flows will jump to 3,500 cfs this afternoon as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grapples with all that incoming water. The surface temperature continues to yo-yo between 41 degrees and 42 degrees, which has slowed the trout bite and made the bass bite terrible. Trolling should be best near the face of the dam, but stay away from the waters upstream of Peyton Bridge until the inflows die down dramatically.

LAKE of the WOODS - The ice is thick, and ice fishing continued to be good this past week near the resort, with catches of trout and perch on worms and jigs.

FISH - The ice is good near the resort and the Forest Service boat ramp, where anglers are catching a mix of rainbow and brown trout on worms and jigs.

WILLOW - The lake received 4,500 legal-sized rainbows Wednesday, and fishing for them should be good this weekend near the boat ramp with PowerBait, worms and small spinners.

Access to the county boat ramp is now available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

ROGUE - The entire Rogue is up and out of shape now, and it's a mystery as far as when things will pull into shape for winter steelhead. Heavy tributary flows and surging releases from Lost Creek Lake have made the Rogue a little too rogue for its own good.

That leaves the best bet as a tie — Kentucky and Kansas, which each should win their NCAA March Madness games today. The rest of the report? Not so good.

Flows out of Lost Creek Lake will be jacked up to 3,500 cubic feet per second by 4 p.m. today, and that pretty much takes away the typical mid-storm option of wading or floating the stretch from the Hatchery Hole to Big Butte Creek. That water will be clean enough for fishing, but it'll be too high and fast for very good success. From Big Butte Creek down, the Rogue is a chocolate mess that got to 10,000 cfs Thursday at Dodge and 15,000 cfs at the gauge just downstream from the old Gold Ray Dam site.

Rain and even snow is forecast for the weekend, and that makes options sketchy. As the water starts to drop, steelhead will definitely be on the move. When it's fishable, the best thing to do is get in front of them with a large, dark-colored plug, either from driftboats or powerboats in the water or side-planers from the bank. Focus on water four- to six-feet deep, especially the inside turns of gravel bars and the near-shore areas on longer, slower glides.

There should be plenty of fish around the upper Rogue, as 335 fresh steelhead were captured this past week in the Cole Rivers Hatchery trap. That pushes the capture to date to more than 900 fish, so they're around.

The middle Rogue will take longer to clear up, and when it does the steelhead catches should be excellent at high-water holes. Wait for turbidity levels at Grants Pass to be down to 15 NTUs before hitting the middle Rogue.

In the lower Rogue, a bunch of fresh steelhead were caught by plunkers using large Spin-Glo's before the water jumped out of control. At least one more spring chinook salmon was caught earlier this week, as well. Flows will take a while to subside.

APPLEGATE - Releases from Applegate Lake will remain at just 120 cubic feet per second through the weekend, and that leaves the upper portions of the river good for winter steelhead fishing. Steelhead definitely have been on the move, as more than 400 fish were caught in the trap at the base of Applegate Dam this week. Fish spoons, spinners, worms and corkies or egg flies, depending upon the contour of the river where you're fishing. Find the greenest water and pound it.

All wild steelhead must be released unharmed and there is no fishing from a floating device.

UMPQUA - The system was up and out of shape for steelhead fishing.

CHETCO - The river was way out of shape Friday but it was on the drop, so fishing conditions could be bearable Monday. When the river pulls into shape, mostly spawned-out steelhead will be in the mix. The season ends March 31.

ELK/SIXES - Both are way high and out of shape for winter steelhead fishing. Both rivers close to angling March 31.

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